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5 Somatic Experiencing Exercises to Keep Grounded During Coronavirus Uncertainty

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depression anxiety sickSpring is typically a time of new, more hopeful beginnings. A time to emerge from the winter renewed and ready for transformation. However, spring 2020 radiates the opposite – the need to hunker down and survive amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s a downright stressful time and your nervous system may be on overdrive due to the added angst, grief, and even trauma. So, how do you stay grounded and keep your cool when seemingly constantly confronted with coronavirus talk? Somatic Experiencing, while a therapy for trauma, focuses on nervous system regulation. So, these exercises can help you find calm during a charged moment. Check out these somatic experiencing exercises to keep grounded during social isolation.

5 Techniques from Somatic Experiencing Therapy to Keep Grounded During Coronavirus Uncertainty:

1. Notice Your Current Physical Comfort.

Tune out of your surroundings for a moment and bring attention to your physical comfort in this Somatic Experiencing technique. Take your time with each of these steps, so that you spend at least 1 minute with the entire exercise.

    • While sitting in a chair, take a moment and notice your overall experience.
    • Move your feet on the floor, moving and shifting until you really feel connected to the floor.
    • Now feel your back and bottom on the chair, noticing how the chair supports you. (Ask yourself if you are perching on the chair? If so, allow the chair to support you.)
    • Adjust until you feel your comfort spot. Take a few moments to really enjoy the comfort of being supported by the chair and stabilized by the floor.
    • Look around and notice something that feels resourceful (e.g. the tree right outside the window, a piece of art, a calming color, the floor, etc.). Savor the resourceful feelings.
    • What do you notice now about your overall comfort – physically and emotionally?

If you take your time with this exercise, it can be surprising just how much settling you can achieve in your nervous system in just one minute.

Related Reading- Why Understanding What Trauma Does to the Brain Helps You Heal

2. Containment With Safe Touch.

Somatic Experiencing therapy sometimes utilizes touch because it more directly intervenes with the nervous system. Touch can include self-touch. One use of touch is to provide a sense of containment. Again, take your time with each of these steps in this self-soothing exercise.

    • Take a moment and notice your overall experience.
    • Take your right hand and place it just below your left armpit, holding the side of your chest.
    • Place your left hand on your right bicep (or shoulder or elbow).
    • Take several minutes to notice the feeling under your hands (e.g. does your body feel warm, is the fabric of your shirt smooth or scratchy, can you feel your heartbeat). Do you experience a sense of containment from your hands and arms? Is it pleasant?
    • Notice how the rest of your body experiences this soothing and containing touch (e.g. your limbs).
    • What do you notice now about your overall experience?
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Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

When you experience a lot of emotional arousal from being triggered by coronavirus news, it can be difficult to contain the energy of those emotions.  This Somatic Experiencing exercise keeps you grounded by re-establishing a felt sense of containment in your body.T

3. Recalling a Kindness.

The persistent uncertainty and dis-ease around the threat of infection and coronavirus spread can ramp up a sense of threat to which your physiology automatically responds. You can counter this through this SE exercise which invites your physiology to settle again through recalling safety and kindness.  Take your time with each of these steps in this exercise.

    • Recall a time when someone was kind to you.
    • Remember everything you can about the words, touch, gestures, or actions the kind person used to soothe and comfort you or to provide you with help.
    • As you recall what the kind person did, notice the sensory aspects of the memory in your body – what you see, hear, feel on your skin, etc. – almost as if you’re back there right now.
    • As you notice your response, recall the emotion you felt back then and what you feel even now as you recall the experience.
    • If a negative aspect of the memory arises, set that part on an imaginary shelf and come back to the sensory aspects of the kind memory.
    • Notice what you’re feeling in your body now and your overall experience now?

When you’re stressed, it can take all your energy to keep from erupting with your frustration. Eruptions, especially when everyone is cooped up inside, can to get in the way of family harmony. Recalling kindnesses in this felt sense way can keep eruptions at a bay.

Related Reading: 3 Ways Childhood Trauma can Affect your Adult Relationships

4. When You Felt Most Like Yourself.youn woman

Peter Levine, PhD, the developer of Somatic Experiencing therapy, sometimes uses this Somatic Experiencing exercise to encourage settling and  regulation in the autonomic nervous system. The first part of this exercise can help you find emotional and nervous system regulation and help to keep grounded.

    • Take a moment and notice your overall experience.
    • Then recall a time in the last 24 hours when you felt most like yourself – or the person you would hope to be more of the time. (Extend the time frame if something doesn’t come to mind from the last day.)
    • As you remember this event in a detailed way – almost as if it was happening again – notice what happens in your body in this moment now. Especially notice your five senses in the memory.
    • Recall another time you most felt like yourself or the person you’d like to be, this time within the last several weeks.
    • Again, as you remember this event in a detailed way – almost as if it was happening again – notice what happens in your body in this present moment.
    • What do you notice now about your overall experience?

Listening to the news and coronavirus updates can be distressing and can trigger a spiral of emotions. This SE exercise can not only bring you back to your true north, it can help you ground in the felt sense of the present moment again.

5. The Voo Sound.

The Voo Sound is a powerful technique that can bring significant settling. However, it can be stimulating for some people, so give it a try for the first time when you’re feeling safe and calm. Also, because this technique requires you to make a vocalization, you may want to be by yourself when you use it (think the bathroom, a bedroom, or stepping outside).

    • Take a moment and notice your overall experience.
    • Now think of the sound a foghorn makes. (If you’ve never heard one, here’s an example.)
    • Take a deep breath then imitate the foghorn, making a sound that rumbles through your torso. See if you can feel the vibrations of the sound all the way down to your pelvic floor. (Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make the sound loud. The key is to make the pitch of the sound as low as you possibly can.)
    • As you run out of breath on the Voo, let the next breath come in naturally. Take your time.
    • If you feel a settling in your system, stay with that and enjoy it. If you feel your system more activated (which the Voo can produce for some people, even if they’ve found the exercise settling before), let go of this exercise for now and use another one I’ve listed to settle your system.
    • If you find the Voo to be settling, feel free to do make the Voo sound again to see if you find even more settling. I don’t recommend doing Voo more than 3 times in one sitting.
    • What do you notice now about your overall experience?

This SE exercise can return a sense of ease, especially in your body’s core. This is in part because it gently vibrates the organs and muscles, which can cause them to relax. Physical relaxation can help you keep grounded during coronavirus uncertainty.

Related Reading: How to Manage Fear and Anxiety During Coronavirus Pandemic

You can use one, a few, or all of these Somatic Experiencing exercises to keep grounded and regain balance if you get triggered throughout this pandemic, or in any other stressful situation. Somatic Experiencing offers many, many more exercises to help support nervous system regulation. Find some of these exercises in Healing Trauma by Peter Levine.

A Somatic Experiencing therapist can help you heal trauma and find more regulation in your nervous system. They can also explain the theory behind these exercises. If you’re in the Chicago area, my practice has a number of SE therapists. Contact us to be connected with one of them in our Glen Ellyn, Chicago (Jefferson Park), or Sycamoreoffices.  We have convenient telehealth options available, as well.

 

Rhonda Kelloway, LCSW, SEP

Rhonda Kelloway is a co-owner and principal therapist at Life Care Wellness, a group psychotherapy practice in Glen Ellyn and Chicago (Jefferson Park neighborhood), Illinois. She is a trauma specialist utilizing a Somatic Experiencing framework to utilize the body’s wisdom in healing. She also uses EMDR and a variety of traditional psychotherapy approaches in her work. In addition to being a psychotherapist, she is a trained divorce and family mediator.